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Shabbat Bereshit – Past, Present, and Future

In the last post, Tishrei—Past, Present, and Future, we discussed how all Tishrei holidays – Rosh HaShanah, Yom Kippur, Sukkot, and Simchat Torah – are connected by the same thread of time and, more specifically, the unification of past, present, and future. This cluster of Tishrei holidays is culminated and concluded with Shabbat Bereshit, when we start the new annual cycle of reading the Torah. Not surprisingly, Shabbat Bereshit follows the same pattern of unification of past, present, and future. The Torah starts with the creation of the world. The story of Creation, obviously, relates to the past. The word “bereshit,” means, in the beginning. The root of “bereshit" is “reshit” – beginning. Beginning, however, points into the future – to something that will follow the beginning in the future. The Lubavitcher [...]

Tishrei — Past, Present, and Future

The months of Tishrei is full of holidays, and they all share a common theme—the unification of time—past, present, and future. Picart, Blowing of the Shofars on Rosh Hashanah It all starts with Rosh HaShanah. Traditionally translated as the New Year, it literally means the Head of the Year. The word shanah has the same letters as the word shinui — “change.” As Aristotle famously wrote, time is change. The sages of Kabbalah agree—time, in its essence, is change. Thus, Rosh HaShanah can be translated as the Head of Time, or the Beginning of Time (since a related Hebrew word, reshit means the “beginning”). Indeed, it is all about time. Rosh HaShanah has three main themes—Zichronot (remembrances), Shofrot (Sounds of the Shofar), and Malchiot or  Kabalat Ol Malchut Shamayim (acceptance of [...]

Three-and-a-half Hakafot — Topology of Simchat Torah

Why is this night different from all other nights, asks a child on the Seder night. On this Simchat Torah I asked a different question—why is the day different from the night? Indeed, on the night of Simchat Torah, we dance seven hakafot-circuits. However, during the morning service of the next day, we only dance three-and-a-half hakafot. What is the meaning of this number—three and a half? There are a few instances the Torah, Talmud, and Rabbinic instances where this number is mentioned (e.g., during the Gaonic period, c. 590–1000 CE, in some communities in the Land of Israel, the Torah reading cycle was completed in three and a half years; Maimonides rules that only half of the tzitzit string should be dyed blue leaving three and a half strings white), but none of them [...]

Big Bang

בְּרֵאשִׁית בָּרָא The Torah starts with two words—Bereshit bara—“In the beginning, [God] created…” Bereshit in Hebrew means “in the beginning,” and bara means “created.” What is interesting is that both words begin with the same letter, bet, the equivalent of b. Another two-word expression that describes the process of creation and each of whose two words also starts with the letter b is, of course, the Big Bang. This similarity could be a coincidence, but not according to Nachmanides (Rabbi Moses ben Naḥman Girondi, known by the Hebrew acronym Ramban, 1194–1270). Here is Nahmanides’s description of the initial moments of the creation: At the briefest instant following creation, all the matter of the universe was concentrated in a very small place, no larger than a grain of mustard. . . . From the [...]

The Fifth Force

Now, therefore, write ye this song for you, and teach thou it the children of Israel.” (Deut. 31:19) The four known fundamental forces are: gravitational force, electromagnetic force, strong (nuclear) force, and the weak force (beta decay). Newton first described the gravitational force in his famous universal law of gravity. Today, we use Einstein’s General Theory of Relativity to describe gravitation fields. Electromagnetism was described in the 19 c. by Faraday and Maxwell. Strong and week forces were discovered much later, in the second half of the 20 c. Since Albert Einstein started a search for unified field theory, unsuccessfully trying to unify (describe by a single theory) gravity and electromagnetism, the quest for a unified field theory – the “Theory of Everything” – became the holy grail of theoretical physics. Strong and [...]

Adam Kadmon and Holographic Universe

Dedicated to the memory of Professor Yaakob David Bekenstein   The Torah opens with the word “Bereshit” – in the Beginning – whose first letter, Bet, is written large to signify that it contains a hidden meaning. The gematriah (numerical value) of the letter Bet is 2. It has three sides – top (“roof”), bottom (“floor”) and the right “wall”:   Letter Bet of Bereshit may be viewed as the “event horizon” of the Torah. In General Relativity, the event horizon is the area of spacetime beyond which information is inaccessible to an outside observer. For example, the event horizon of a black hole is the boundary surrounding every black hole that acts as information firewall – the light from within the event horizon cannot escape outside and, therefore, information is invisible to an [...]

The Entangled Twins

Entanglement is often called the most baffling and the most quintessential aspect of quantum mechanics. What is entanglement, in a nutshell? Two particles born out of one reaction (or two particles that interacted through a collision) remain connected, no matter how distant from each other. A change in the status of one particle instantaneously causes a change in the status of the other particle. Einstein called it "spooky action at a distance." Entanglement is often associated with a certain symmetry and corresponding conservation laws. For example, the law of conservation of angular momentum requires that the spin (the quantum-mechanical analog of the angular momentum) of two entangled particles always point in the opposite directions. This means that, if two entangled particles have their spin in a state of superposition of Up (↑) and Down (↓), and we collapse [...]

Maarat HaMachpelah – Double Cave

Give me the Machpelah (double) Cave Genesis 23:9 The first legal acquisition of land in Israel takes place in this Torah portion, Chayei Sarah, when Abraham purchases a double cave, Maarat HaMachpelah, in the city of Chevron (Hebron) as an ancestral burial plot. Today, the immense rectangular structure built over the cave more than 2000 years ago during Herodian era is the oldest house of worship in the world in continuous use. Biblical commentator Rashi explains that the cave was called Machpelah (lit., double) because it had two structures—an upper chamber and a lower chamber. (Another explanation given in the Talmud relates the name of this cave to thee couples buried there—Abraham and Sarah, Isaac and Rebecca, and Jacob and Leah. According to Kabbalah, Adam and Eve are buried there as well (Zohar, Ruth 96). Cave of the Patriarchs [...]

Two Beginnings

B’reshit bara Elokim et hashamaim v’et haaretz… In the beginning, God created heaven and earth… Alternative translation: With two beginnings God created heaven and earth… Genesis 1:1   *This is an abridged and updated version of my paper “Towards Reconciliation of Biblical and Cosmological Ages of the Universe” Presented at the Third Miami International Conference on Torah & Science in Dec. of 1999 and published in B’Or HaTorah, 13 (2002) p. 19. Contemporary science places the age of the universe in the thirteen to fourteen billion years range, or 13.787 ± 0.02, [1] to be precise.  This age is derived from both theoretical models as well as experimental data.  (For an overview of theoretical and experimental approaches to dating the universe and our planet Earth see my original paper TOWARDS RECONCILIATION OF BIBLICAL AND [...]

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